Interview with comedian Lucas O’Neil

"I’ve never run an ultra-marathon but have always wanted to and the fringe feels as close as I’ll likely get."

Interview with comedian Lucas O’Neil

Could you first introduce yourself to the reader?

My name is Lucas O’Neil and I’m a US Comedian based in Brooklyn, New York. I’m a nice lad.

How would you describe your show?

It’s a stand-up hour that centers around my anxious family, my role within it, and how that changed after my mom’s passing. It’s really not about death, though. It’s about how the people and places in our lives make us who we are, and who we become without them. 

What is your favourite part of your show?

Some of my earliest comedy memories are my family standing around the kitchen making fun of each other. And towards the end of the show, after the audience has come to know some of my family members as characters, there are several jokes that feel like that kitchen laughter. We are collectively laughing at people that we all know, and to varying degrees, care for. The varying degrees part feels especially familial. 

The most honest answer to the question, though, would be that my favourite part of the show is whatever part is working best that night. I’m not doing the show for affirmation, but I do welcome and need it.

If your show had a theme song, what would it be and why?

“I’m Not Angry” by Elvis Costello because this show does attempt to dissect some ideals of masculinity, and one of the tropes (accurate as it may be) is that many of us are destined to become angry old men. So to some degree, the song is my own hope – that I won’t be angry – sung over the top of slick guitar riffs. The other reason is the irony of the song. He is not angry, but he feels so strongly that he has to tell the listener that he isn’t angry – and the way he says it sounds, actually, quite angry. And that dichotomy fits in well with the show.

What is one thing you hope audiences will take away from your show?

I hope audiences leave full – pleased with the laughter and heartened by the journey. And maybe, they leave with a little reminder that on the other side of change, you can find good. Even if it’s change you fought pretty hard to prevent.

If you could add a surprise celebrity cameo to your show, who would it be and why?

Any of the actors who’ve recently played Spiderman (from Tom Holland all the way back to Toby McGuire) because some people think I look like them – and actually shout at me on the street about it – so I’d like to see how their theory holds up in a live side-by-side comparison. I suspect it will not.

Why do you want to perform at Edinburgh Festival Fringe?

Three reasons, really. One: I wanted an excuse to visit Edinburgh and I don’t know how to take vacations, so this was the best way. Two: there’s something appealing about how difficult it seems. There are 3000 shows. You have one of those shows. You perform everyday but one, for nearly a month. I’ve never run an ultra-marathon but have always wanted to and the fringe feels as close as I’ll likely get. And reason number three is that I wanted to grow as a comedian. And I cannot imagine being a part of a festival teeming with talent and perspectives and not come out a little bit better at my craft.

What differentiates it from other festivals?

As a first-time performer, I’d say the scale and range. There is a huge number of acts and such variance in what type of performance you can take in. Do you like standup? Great. Here’s 1000 options. Do you like physical theater? Here’s 200 options. Do you like Circuses? Here are several circuses. Also, this festival takes place near castles. Standup is so rarely near castles.

What is one thing you would change about the Edinburgh Festival Fringe?

How far away it is where I live. And how financially inaccessible it is. One of those might seem more important than the other, but they are equally important to me. 

How has your background, upbringing and education had an impact on your artistic career?

I performed often as a kid – piano, singing, dance – and that definitely built a base-level of confidence on stage. Performing always felt like something I could do, and something I enjoyed. Getting to explore so many different mediums also offered me many roads back to art when I drifted into sports (which I did for a good stretch of time). 

But probably the biggest influence on my artistic trajectory was my college experience. It was a liberal arts school blessed with a couple of excellent theater professors. When I stumbled into acting because I was cut from the basketball team, I had the structure to study acting, but without the pressure of a conservatory. I had a lot of space to play and learn at my pace. The downside of not being at a conservatory was that I was not around many aspiring artists. Most of my fellow students wanted to be lawyers or doctors (I hope I’m pronouncing that correctly). As a result, I had to be self-sufficient. I loved collaborating, but I realized that performing by myself was the way I could work on comedy at the rate that I wanted. And that’s why stand-up became my main outlet. Also, it’s the most fun outlet. 

What is your favourite thing about performing for a live audience?

How honest the interaction is. If it’s going well, you can trust it’s going well. If it’s not going well, well, that’s the audience’s fault probably. And you don’t have to think another second about it.

What is the strangest thing that has ever happened to you while performing?

The audience and I once listened to a fight in the next room. The security guard had taken a guy out of the performance space because he was being disruptive. Normal stuff, I thought. I believed that was the end of the ordeal, so I started telling jokes again. But, the audience member did not agree with this course of action, and the door to the lobby was not sound-proof. So, the audience member started yelling, and then there was a scuffle that concluded with what sounded like the security guard slamming the man against the wall. I had stopped telling jokes by now. And, the crowd and I sat in silence for a while. And then I said “aw, I miss him.” And the rest of the show was great.

What's the most challenging or unconventional venue you've ever performed in, and how did it impact the overall experience?

I’ve performed at a Christian Baptist Mega Church before. Not sure if those exist in the UK, but it’s like when a church takes over a mall in the name of Jesus. It wasn’t a challenging performance. That was the unconventional part. The Mega Church was one of the best venues I’ve ever played. Sound, stage, lighting - all incredible. The crowd was great. I was raised Catholic, so I didn’t know any part of church could be good or fun. And reckoning with this revelation continues to be a daily challenge.

Is there a piece of feedback you've received from an audience member or critic after a performance that’s stuck with you?

Yes. Probably more have stuck with me than is healthy. But one time, I did a show in a small city in Middle of the U.S., and in the lobby afterwards, a man complimented my set, and then said that my punchlines were “ephemeral.” And that’s stayed with me because it was the first time I had to look up a word to understand a compliment on my standup. And, he described my comedy better than I could have.

What is your favourite thing to do in Edinburgh when you're not performing? How do you relax and look after your mental health?

This is purely speculative, but I’ve heard from fellow performers that I can run along the beach pretty easily. So, I’ll be doing that, and wandering through the aisles of every bookstore in the city. 

Is there a show you’re excited to see when you’re up there?

So many, really. But a couple of highlights: Cat Cohen is going to be there, and I love seeing Cat. I am also excited to see Martin Urbano’s Apology Comeback Tour. He’s sometimes too funny. 

What is one piece of advice you’d give to someone thinking about taking a show up to Edinburgh? If you’ve never been before, what would you say has been (potentially) the most useful?

I’d say the best advice right now is a tie between “pace yourself” and “bring an umbrella.” Those two pieces of wisdom actually support each other because walking with an umbrella will certainly slow you down. So if anyone sees me underneath a giant, open umbrella on a sunny day, just know I’m practicing self-care.

When and where can people see your show?

17:20 at Up The Road at Just The Tonic at The Caves.

And where can people find you online?

Website, TikTok and Instagram. My website is lucasoneil.com and my TikTok and IG are @mr.lucasoneil

Header Image Credit: Provided

Author

Tom Inniss

Tom Inniss Voice Team

Tom is the Editor of Voice. He is a politics graduate and holds a masters in journalism, with particular interest in youth political engagement and technology. He is also a mentor to our Voice Contributors, and champions our festivals programme, including the reporter team at the Edinburgh Festival Fringe.

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